A touch of class - Namaqua African Rally

Words: Michelle Smith | Photos: www.dirtracing.co.za & Toni Jardine PR

For any rider, just completing a gruelling week-long race is enough of a challenge, but for the ladies there always seems to be a spotlight that follows them to see how they perform at the big events. Riders like Liezel Barnard, current Ladies Quad Champion, and Toni Jardine, current Ladies Bike Champion, have been racing for so long now that they know how to deal with the good and bad when it comes to racing; when you have a tough day, you simply put it behind you, regroup, and tackle the next one. That’s what racing is all about.

Photo credit: www.dirtracing.co.za

So the Namaqua African Rally, a first for southern Africa, was just another 'day in the office' for these two seasoned riders. Taking place from 25 April to 3 May 2014, with the actual rally starting on the afternoon of 27 April, Toni and Liezel joined forces to race in the same team in this tough nine-day, multi-stage navigational event for motorcycle and quad riders, under Barnard Vervoer.

So the Namaqua African Rally, a first for southern Africa, was just another 'day in the office' for these two seasoned riders. Taking place from 25 April to 3 May 2014, with the actual rally starting on the afternoon of 27 April, Toni and Liezel joined forces to race in the same team in this tough nine-day, multistage navigational event for motorcycle and quad riders, under Barnard Vervoer.

Attracting riders from around the globe, the event covered approximately 3,500 kilometres of varied terrain along the Namaqua West Coast, and the battle for supremacy in all the classes was a hotly contested affair. Of the 67 competitors that started, 54 completed this event. The list of finishers also include competitors who could not reach the finish line on one or more of the days, but who took the ‘bail out’ choice and started the race the next day again. So how did our ladies do? Read on.

Liezel’s race: #LB1

Liezel competed in the Quads Unlimited and combined bikes and quads Ladies class on board her Barnard Vervoer-sponsored Can-Am 1,000 cc Renegade.

The racing action started on Sunday with a 46-kilometre Prologue, which determined the starting position for all the riders for Monday, when the racing started. A mishap en route saw Liezel and several other riders doing a longer section and put her in 56th position to start. Not the way she wanted to kick off the first day. Her bad luck didn’t end there though, as Liezel and her husband, Banie, who were racing together, first got delayed when his bike overheated. They ended up losing over an hour of race time and more kilometres to make their way back. But despite the rough day, both riders were in high spirits and having fun.

Every day threw new challenges at the team, and whilst Liezel and Banie had a great day two, even managing to move up several positions, the cold weather and dust made it difficult. Liezel struggled to feel her fingers at a stage, which is quite a problem when you are racing flat out, but she got through the day in one piece.

Wednesday was a much-welcomed rest day in ‘wine tasting country’, and they enjoyed their day off sampling the wine, relaxing and recharging their batteries for the final race days awaiting them.

Thursday was another bad day for Liezel, when 5 km into the second special her drive belt broke and Banie had to tow her for the remaining 130 km. Despite it only taking them about 40 minutes to reach the pits, the damage to the bike, from the sand, left it with broken lights, shocks full of holes, no paint anywhere and a bullbar full of holes. So the quad received some much-needed TLC back in the pits, in preparation for the last day.

The weather was perfect on the final day and Banie and Liezel were excited to see the scenery alongside the beach. Some last-minute technical problems were quickly sorted out and then they were on their way. However, Liezel was barely 30 km out when her quad suffered its final fate; the prop shaft broke. There was nothing more to do but accept that this was the end of the race for her and to wait for the pick-up bakkie to later fetch the quad. Whilst it had been great fun, yet an unlucky experience for Liezel, she couldn’t wait to get back home to her children.

"Banie and I want to thank everybody that joined us, we had a great trip. Thank you to Brent Oil and Namaqua! We had the best catering ever! Thanx to George Booker, Roland Booker and also the COC. Thank you for all the photos and all the ‘good lucks’ and ‘well dones’ from everyone, everywhere. The Vredendal people are so friendly and we ended up chatting to them every night for hours.

"Lastly, a big thanks to our pit crew Jorina, Dawid and Hannes, you were by far the best crew ever! Namaqua African Rally, we will see you next year!"

Photo credit: www.dirtracing.co.za

Toni’s race: #TJ1

Toni was on her Roost/Mr. Move-sponsored KTM 250 XCW-F, and one of only three riders that competed on a 250F in the entire race. Her classes were the M1.1 Lites Bikes up to 250 cc and the same Ladies class as Liezel.

Toni only managed 33rd in the starting order for the race, as she hadn’t felt comfortable on the bike in the Prologue. However, she was confident that she would settle in once the racing got underway.

The first day involved two racing stages and two liaison stages. It was on the long straights that Toni’s 250F struggled the most, as the more-powerful bikes breezed past. But besides the dusty and hot conditions, she managed to finish the day in 20th position and 2nd amongst the ladies.

On day two, Toni started the day feeling confident about how to use the road book and was also feeling comfortable on the bike now. She knew that if she wanted to gain any positions, she would need to focus, not make any navigational mistakes and race flat out. A big fall about 30 km from the end for the day left her feeling a little bashed and bruised, as her bike did cartwheels when she came short on a corner. Thankfully, she managed to get back up, dust herself off and push through, ending the day in 16th position and the first lady in with a nine-minute lead. At this stage, Toni was also experiencing some problems with her bike leaking oil.

After the rest day, Toni was confident starting the next race day in 16th position. Unfortunately, as the race proceeded, she noticed more and more oil leaking from her bike and ended up having to make the call to back off a bit and nurse the bike to the end, sacrificing a lot of time in doing so. As a result, she dropped back to 26th, with only a few seconds lead over the nearest lady going into the final day.

Toni knew that the final racing stage of around 90 km would require her to push every limit. The stage was a long beach front, with lots of thick sand and flowing corners. Toni gave it everything, turning the throttle to a point where it couldn’t turn any more and held on tight. Her efforts were rewarded when she won the stage with over a minute lead amongst the ladies.

All that was left to complete was a final 130 km liaison stage, but a liaison stage's requirement is basically just to make it to the next cut-off point within a time limit. Then the unthinkable happened; Toni’s rear mousse (tube) collapsed. She had to ride awkwardly, leaning forward on her bike to keep as much weight off the back as possible. About 10 km from the finish, her bike came to a stand still.

She looked down and knew immediately that her bike had seized. Luckily, a fellow rider, Chris Opperman, towed her to within the finish area and Toni then pushed her bike over the finish line in time.

All her hard work and commitment gave Toni a 1st place in the Ladies class, 2nd place in the M1 class, and an incredible 18th overall in the race.

The race covered roughly 380 km each day. Intensive racing days like these test both rider and bike and thanks to the support of a great team, Toni managed to push through each day in a good position. Says Toni, "A huge thank you must go out to Barnard Vervoer Racing and Liezel and Banie for all their support and help throughout the race, and my sponsors: Roost KTM, Mr. Move Worldwide Botswana, 32Gi, JT Racing, WM Digital Solutions, CrossFit Jozi, DRD, Hyde, Evs, Cycra, XBrand, Jett, Powasol, Rekluse, Kyocera, Hydrapak, Spider, 42 Designs, Maxima Oils, and Risk Racing. I had so much fun and I can’t wait to go back next year!"

Concludes Toni and Liezel, "Thanks also go to Motorsport South Africa (MSA), Women in Motorsport (WIM) and Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) for their continued support." •

More information For more information and race results, visit http://www.namaquaafricanrally.com.